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Trends in K-12 Education: Online Continuing Teacher Education

With each passing year, standards for student achievement in K-12 classrooms across the country continue to rise. Most recently, the wide-spread adoption of Common Core State Standards has forced a new focus on student achievement and application of real world knowledge and skills. In an effort to help students exceed these expectations and succeed in the classroom, proactive educators must seek continuing education that can be immediately translated in to the classroom.

With this goal in mind, online degrees and certificate programs have quickly become the solution. “Choosing between a certificate program and degree program should really be tied to the student’s goals,” says Dr. Karen Ferguson, Assistant Dean for Northcentral University’s School of Education.

Dr. Karen Ferguson -  Assistant Dean, School of Education

Dr. Karen Ferguson – Assistant Dean, School of Education

“A degree program will provide students with both a breadth and a depth of information in their chosen area.  A certificate, on the other hand, tends to be very focused and specific.  Students should choose between the two based on their personal goals and professional requirements.”

In today’s competitive market for online education, fewer requirements, a completion date that is often as short as a few months, and a lower cost for total tuition have given certificate programs the edge – for now.

“Certificate options demonstrate to your school leadership that you are dedicated to continuous improvement and learning,” explains Dr. Ferguson.  “Often, certificates are a nice addition because students can learn focused content that may not have been offered at the time they earned their degree.”

For example, earning an education certificate in early childhood education, e-learning or education leadership would serve almost any educator well. While these specializations are common among online schools, NCU’s School of Education has taken specialized to a higher degree by becoming hyper-focused on the needs of teachers across the country attempting to adapt to the Common Core State Standards requirements.

“NCU offers certificates in a number of areas, all of which will support our students’ goals.  One of our recent additions is the Mathematics Excellence in the Common Core post-baccalaureate certificate.  This unique certification in education is designed specifically to help educators who are currently teaching mathematics to implement the Common Core State Standards,” says Dr. Ferguson.

Whether completing a degree program for advancement or a certificate program for added knowledge, online continuing teacher education is now the go-to solution for educators looking to prepare their students for success. For more information on all of NCU’s Title IV funded certificate and degree programs, visit www.ncu.edu.

Happening Now: Trends in K-12 Education

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment at post-secondary, degree-granting institutions in the United States hit 21 million students in 2010. Millions of students, from hundreds of cities, thousands of school districts, and countless different schools all with one common goal: the desire to better themselves with higher education.

Right now, you’re wondering what this has to do with K-12 education, and the answer is simple – everything. The foundation for a successful educational career is laid in the halls and classrooms of every K-12 school across the country. In order for that foundation to be as strong as possible, standardization of the years of education spent in preparation for success in higher education – and life in general – is a must.

With this in mind, we took the time to gain insight in to the U.S. Department of Education’s Common Core Standards Initiative from course designer, successful author, and Northcentral University faculty member, Dr. Casey Reason.

Q: What is the Common Core Standards Initiative?
A: Put simply, the Common Core Standards is a national standard for math and language arts performance that allows every state to work in a way that allows every student to be competitive. The goal of this initiative is to bring into alignment the curriculum expectations for the United States.

Q: What makes this superior to previous efforts for standardization in K-12 education across the United States?
A: In the past, we resisted offering a sense of clarity about exactly what educators were supposed to be teaching and how. The Common Core Standards are far more explicit and even go so far as to describe how to get to the articulated standards. This is unprecedented.

Q: Northcentral University’s School of Education has focused its efforts on properly preparing teachers for success in the classroom. In your opinion, how will Common Core Standards impact teacher education?
A: The Common Core Standards will improve our ability to prepare teachers. These standards give us the ability to give teachers the specific tools they need to be successful in the classroom. In addition, Common Core Standards level the playing field between schools, districts and states, giving us the consistency that will make preparing teachers much easier.

Q: What changes, if any, can parents expect?
A: The biggest change for parents will be overcoming the notion that their children are being taught in a manner which is not consistent with the way they were taught as children. Schools who are implementing the Common Core Standards Initiative have to work overtime to let parents know that the approach will be different. Some schools, for example, are asking parents to take classes in the Common Core Standards Initiative so that they are of greater assistance in helping with homework. It will undoubtedly result in some bumpy transitions along the way, but I truly believe that this is progress and we will be better off for it.

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